| In the Spotlight |
Is there more to learn about the Holocaust? Roberto Benigni's bittersweet comedy about the terrible event, Life Is Beautiful (Miramax; rated PG-13 for Holocaust-related thematic elements), won an Academy Award for Best Actor and Best Foreign Film. Now available on video in both the original Italian (with subtitles) and dubbed English, this is more fable than historical drama. Mr. Benigni, who stars in this film with his wife, Nicoletta Braschi, is Guido, a Jewish waiter in fascist Italy. He spends the first part of this movie trying to win her affections-and how could any woman refuse this character's charm? It's a beautiful romance, in a chaotic time, where bureaucrats travel to schools lecturing on race theory, and eugenics is fare for dinner party chitchat. After several years, the couple and their young son (Giorgio Cantarini) are sent off to a concentration camp. Guido has an unusual plan to save his son's life and to keep him from being afraid. He tells him they are contestants in a game and must do exactly what the big, mean-looking guys tell them to do, so they can win the big prize at the end. The idea of what the boy believes, mixed with his wonderful wide-eyed expressions, add volumes to the terrific mix of laughter and tears. Of course, no one could keep up such a ruse-but this story of a father protecting his son can't help but be deeply touching. Comedy works here in ways that drama alone might not, and Mr. Benigni's Oscar is well deserved.